Atlantic City’s mayor has accused the state government of acting like a “fascist dictatorship” in its efforts to lift the city out of its financial hole.
On Monday, AC mayor Don Guardian took a shot at the fiscal rescue plan proposed by the New Jersey legislature and supported by Gov. Chris “il Duce” Christie (pictured), which is aimed at keeping the troubled seaside gambling hub from having to declare bankruptcy.
AC is set to run out of money as soon as April, assuming the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa continues to withhold its property tax payments. The state proposed measures that would give the state-appointed Local Finance Board broad powers over AC’s finances and Guardian appeared to be on board with the plan until he dropped the ‘F’ bomb at a press conference on Monday.
Guardian said he’d been promised the state and city would forge a partnership to dig AC out of its fiscal hole. But the plan proposed by the state – including privatizing city assets like the municipal water supply, tearing up union contracts and letting the county handle policing – was, In Guardian’s eyes, “far from a partnership; it was absolutely a fascist dictatorship.”
Guardian didn’t shy away from this narrative, calling the state’s plan “an insult to democracy and to American citizens living in Atlantic City.” Guardian warned that “today it’s Atlantic City, but tomorrow it will be Paterson or Trenton,” forgetting that this line traditionally finishes with “tomorrow the world,” followed by a blast of chilling organ music.
A Christie spokesman dismissed Guardian’s rhetoric as “political posturing” and warned that state taxpayers couldn’t continue to bail out AC. A spokesman for Senate president Steve Sweeney said Guardian’s pursuit of an alternative legislative plan was “far too little and way too late.”
AC has been struggling ever since 2006, when neighboring Pennsylvania opened its first casino, ending AC’s longstanding regional monopoly. Since then, one-third of AC’s casinos have closed, gaming revenue has fallen by half and property values have plummeted in tandem, robbing the city of its ability to generate sufficient revenue to pay its bills, let alone eight-figure tax refunds to casino operators.